Wednesday 21 February 2018

Johnny Sexton in the firing line against the French

Saint-Andre tells Les Bleus to target returning Ireland out-half

Ruaidhri O'Connor

Ruaidhri O'Connor

PHILIPPE SAINT-ANDRE wants his team to target Johnny Sexton in the early stages of Saturday's clash between Ireland and France as the fly-half makes his return from his enforced 12-week lay-off.

The Racing Metro man has not played since suffering his fourth concussion of 2014 against Australia in November but is expected to be named in Joe Schmidt's side this afternoon alongside Jamie Heaslip and Sean O'Brien.

Schmidt is likely to keep the returning Cian Healy in reserve, while a decision on Rory Best's ability to take his place depends on whether he can train this morning. Sean Cronin and Richardt Strauss are on stand-by.

Although he has been able to train despite being stood down, Sexton is likely to be undercooked after three months on the sidelines, and Saint-Andre wants to test him out.

"Sexton is a stalwart of this Ireland side, but he hasn't played for 12 weeks and we should really test him early on," said Saint-Andre. "They are full of confidence and showed that when they seized the game against the Italians once they were down to 14 men. They have won eight in a row and are the favourites for the title."

Possible Ireland team: R Kearney; T Bowe, J Payne, R Henshaw, S Zebo; J Sexton, C Murray; J McGrath, R Best/S Cronin, M Ross; D Toner, P O'Connell (capt); P O'Mahony, S O'Brien, J Heaslip. Reps: S Cronin/R Strauss, C Healy, M Moore, I Henderson, J Murphy, I Boss, I Madigan, F Jones.

Irish Independent

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